HORSE racing legend Tony McCoy has paid tribute to tragic jockey Campbell Gillies, who drowned last month while on holiday in Corfu. An estimated 600 people – including Justice Minister Kenny MacAskill and Scotland football manager Craig Levein – attended a funeral service yesterday at Mortonhall Crematorium, which had room for only 250.
After the service, McCoy said he had been a huge admirer of the young rider’s talents.
He said: “He excelled on Brindisi Breeze at Cheltenham and from the weighing room point of view he was a great lad, very happy.”
Mourners, who had been asked not to wear black, heard moving tributes from friends and family to the 21-year-old Cheltenham winner from Haddington, East Lothian.
His brother, Findlay, struggled through tears to tell the congregation that Campbell was the “exception to the rule”.Campbell died just hours after arriving at the resort of Kavos on Monday, June 25. He died in the early hours the next day in the pool at his rented apartment.
Greek police said the death was due to drowning and are investigating whether there were adequate safety precautions at the pool.
More than 300 mourners had to stand outside the service and listen as the tributes were relayed on a speaker system.
The humanist ceremony was led by Tim McGuire, who said Campbell “had a uniqueness in life that you would never find if you looked across the whole world”. He added: “The quality of his life was not in its fullness but in how he lived each day.”
Mr McGuire said that when Campbell first started riding horses he was scared of them and that it wasn’t until he was 14 that he was able to race.
Later on, said Mr McGuire, he would regularly get drunk and take his clothes off.
Mr McGuire summed up Campbell as “very quick- witted, cheeky, and loveable with an infectious smile”.
The song Walking in Memphis was played halfway through the service.
The service ended by playing the commentary from Campbell’s ride to victory on Brindisi Breeze in the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival this year.
The jockey won 131 races in Britain during his career before he died the day before his 22nd birthday, after drinking a “considerable amount” of alcohol, according to a toxicology report.